The Jews - God's witnesses
The position of all humankind is one of separation from God, their Creator. Yet God’s purpose with the earth and with people on it is not at risk of termination or failure. God’s indescribable kindness and mercy is such that He has promised wonderful things regarding a way out and escape from sin and death.
The Jews chosen by God
The promises God made (considered in another article) began to be fulfilled in the arrangement of the small nation of Israel. As descendants of Abraham, the people of Israel were chosen by God.
In the days of Moses, they were taken by God out of Egypt where they had been slaves to Pharaoh, and given special attention by Him. He gave them a law which was to regulate their lives so that they might live according to His principles. By following this law and subsequently receiving great blessings from Him, this small nation was to demonstrate God’s love and mercy to all nations in the world, that they too might turn to worship the true God. As God’s words to the people in the book of Deuteronomy continued, “And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee.” (Deuteronomy 28:10). In this way they would be God’s witnesses, testifying to the love of the Almighty.
But, as Moses succinctly summarised it, the choice was theirs:
The Jews failed to obey
Sadly, the history of Israel demonstrates that the choice of each generation was death, by being disobedient to God. The terms had been clearly laid out. “If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law… the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other…” (Deuteronomy 28:58, 64). Rather than being a positive witness to the faithfulness of God, the people of Israel were ironically to become a witness to the just judgements of God. Therefore, as God is true to His word, Israel became overridden by invading armies, first by the Assyrians, then the Babylonians and ultimately by the Romans, who in AD70 desecrated the temple in Jerusalem and burnt the whole city with fire. On each occasion, the people were deported and scattered far and wide from their homeland, the land of Israel.
What possibly could have been the reason behind God’s punishments on Israel? The prophet Amos tells us,
When God gave them the laws and commandments through Moses, He not only invested them with honour, but also gave them grave responsibility. By representing God on earth, they should have acted as God’s people. But scripture repeatedly informs us of the wickedness of the children of Israel in rejecting the law, serving other gods, deceiving, and carrying out unjust actions against others, causing Jesus in his final days to weep over Jerusalem saying:
They had missed the point of the law of God, and rather clung to ritual and tradition as if they alone had power of salvation. Therefore, they became a witness to God’s sovereignty, His authority and His severity of judgement.
But how does this fit with the God that scriptures portray, as a loving, merciful and gracious Father? Where is God’s love and compassion in His dealings with the people?
Hope for the future
Mercifully, God has not left the Jews, His chosen people, for good. Leaving aside the abundant longsuffering that He showed in spite of their wickedness, He has promised a future redemption and reconciliation:
How marvellous is the love of God, that despite repeated failure on the part of the nation of Israel, He is still forbearing and compassionate and has promised a re-gathering of His people from the world where they were scattered. In this they witness to the love and mercy of God, but also are undeniably a sure example of fulfilled Bible prophecy. Until 1948, the Jews had been living scattered throughout the world, often suffering persecution and oppression. But despite nearly 2000 years without a homeland, they have maintained a separate identity. Following the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948, many Jews have returned to the land. When Christ returns there will be complete regathering of the Jews to the land promised to their fathers.
Consequently, we read in Paul's letter to the Romans,